Footballers from Robert Gordon University wore rainbow coloured bootlaces in a crucial cup match in support of a national anti-homophobia campaign.
Earlier this year ex-Aston Villa and Everton midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first former English Premier League player to reveal his sexuality. The former Germany international waited until he was retired to announce he is gay.
Liam Davis, of Conference North side Gainsborough Trinity, is reported to be Britain’s only openly gay footballer, while former England under-21 international Justin Fashanu, who played for a number of clubs including Hearts and Airdrie, came out in 1990 but took his own life eight years later.
The players in Robert Gordon’s first and second teams faced each other in the Scottish Conference Cup at Garthdee. It was the first time they had met in a competitive fixture since the second team was formed 10 years ago.
The first team won 4-0 and will go on to face either Glasgow or Abertay in the semi-finals. But both teams were keen to play their part in supporting RGU’s first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Awareness Week.
It links with other campaigns such as Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers initiative. The campaign introduced rainbow laces last year and aims to make it easier for homosexual players to come out.
Student football president at RGU Graham McDougall, who plays for the first team, said: “Both of our football teams were proud to wear rainbow laces and support this important awareness-raising campaign. Initiatives like this are a great way to challenge perceptions.
“Sexuality in sport should not be an issue in the 21st century and race and gender discrimination have both been kicked out of the game in the UK following similar campaigns.”
Cameron Campbell, a sports and exercise science student and captain of the RGU second team, said: “It is great to raise awareness about this issue. Some professional footballers such as Joey Barton and Olivier Giroud have already worn the rainbow laces to help start the campaign but it possibly hasn’t had as big an impact as you would expect.
“If one of our teammates told us he was gay he certainly wouldn’t be treated any differently.”
RGU’s LGBT Awareness Week has been supported through a grant from the Scottish LGBT History Month fund, which in turn is supported by the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland.
A number of RGU’s other competitive sports clubs wore the rainbow laces.